The “peace dividend” promised by Police Commissioner William J. Bratton is real, according to a study released by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Mr. Bratton’s dividend means that reductions in crime will result in fewer interactions between police officers and city residents. In March, he predicted that the number of contacts would drop by 1 million this year from what it was a few years ago.
Need for Action Declined
The John Jay study covered 2003 to 2014. “But the results confirm his assessment of the magnitude of the ‘peace dividend’: between 2011 and 2014, there were 804,750 fewer enforcement actions taken by the NYPD,” according to the report on the study released Dec. 11 at a Citizens Crime Commission breakfast.
The study came out at a time when officials are looking at reducing crime-related contacts between the NYPD and the citizenry even further. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has proposed making summonses for some quality-of-life crimes administrative rather than criminal. A draft proposal discussed in April raises the possibility of decriminalizing offenses such as public drinking, public urination and littering.
Ms. Mark-Viverito expressed concern that many recipients of summonses, for whatever reason, did not make their court dates. That meant an arrest warrant was issued, and the next time they came into contact with a police officer they would be locked up.
Mayor Seeks Bail Reform
Mayor de Blasio has proposed reforms to the bail system, noting that many people arrested for non-violent offenses were held at Rikers Island because they couldn’t afford bail that often amounted to a few hundred dollars. He recommended alternatives to bail such as electronic monitoring and frequent reports to authorities.
He and the state’s Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman, introduced a program making it easier for people to respond to summonses and speeding up prosecutions of cases that languish while defendants are held on bail.
Judge Lippman—who is retiring at the end of the month—has said he also favors decriminalizing some quality-of-life offenses.
In an interview with THE CHIEF-LEADER, John Jay President Jeremy Travis said the numbers “will look different going forward if there is a decision to remove some of the quality-of-life crimes from the criminal system.”
He noted that if the changes go through, the city will still see police-civilian contacts, but the outcomes will be different.
Too Wide a Net
The drop in enforcement activity recorded by the study follows a period under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, when officers cast a wide net. Some critics called it indiscriminate.
The number of stop-and-frisks escalated from fewer than 100,000 in 2002—that administration’s first year—to nearly 700,000 in 2011. Only about 12 percent of stops resulted in an arrest or summons, and the program led to complaints that innocent young black and Latino men were repeatedly stopped
—and sometimes roughed up—without meeting the legal requirement that they show some sign of being involved in a crime.
Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly insisted that their aggressive stop-and-frisk policy kept people from carrying guns in the streets, leading to a sharp decline in the homicide rate. But homicides and other serious crimes continued to fall even as the number of stops began dropping in 2012, the year before a Federal Judge found that the way the NYPD was implementing the program was unconstitutional and racially discriminatory.
Stops fell to 45,787 in 2014, which ended with the fewest homicides and other major crimes since the department started keeping records in the 1960s. Stops this year were projected to hit 24,500 by Dec. 31, and despite an expected slight rise in homicides, overall crime continues to be low.
Lets Cops Lighten Up
Mr. Bratton has said that the drop in crime allows police officers to wield a lighter hand when dealing with residents, which will help repair relations that were strained during the stop-and-frisk era. He and Mr. de Blasio have de-emphasized the use of stop-and-frisk and favor improved community relations over rising numbers of arrests and summonses.
In a meeting in March with the editorial board of the Daily News, Mr. Bratton attributed the decline in police-civilian contacts to the huge drop in stop-and-frisks, a new policy that restricts arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana and a drop in quality-of-life summonses.
“The rise and decline in enforcement actions in New York City over the past decade is simply stunning,” Mr. Travis said in a written announcement. “The sharp increase has been well-documented. We are now witnessing the mirror-image decline, resulting in a significantly different level of police-public interaction, particularly for young men of color.”
The peace dividend does not affect everyone equally, according to the report. Just as the rise in enforcement under Mr. Bloomberg targeted mostly young black and Latino men, the decline benefits them disproportionately.
The rate at which blacks were arrested and stopped was 13.6 percent in 2003, nearly doubled to 25.8 percent in 2006, peaked at 29.5 percent in 2011, then fell to 10.7 percent in 2014. That’s a decrease of 63.7 percent, the report said.
The enforcement rate for Latinos was somewhat lower: 8.8 percent in 2003, 15.0 percent in 2006, 18.5 percent in 2011 and 7.0 percent in 2014. For whites, the figures were 2.4 percent in 2003, 4.3 percent in 2010, then 1.6 percent in 2014.
The full report can be found on the college’s website at http://goo.gl/MCGE5j.